Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Roasted Cauliflower and Kabocha soup

It is fall, it is fall, the leaves are falling EVERYWHERE!!! That means it's time for soup and spiced dishes to warm you. Kabocha squash is by far my favorite hard squash. I was introduced to it by Mioko Schinner when she made a vegan shabu shabu during a Japanese cooking class she conducted at McDougall's. It is delicious simply steamed or roasted even with very little or no seasoning. I came across this delicious looking recipe for a sweet potato cauliflower soup over at Manifest Vegan which became the starting point for this recipe. I kicked up some of the spices and of course dropped the oil and subbed the squash for sweet potato. It came out very tasty and warming. Just what I needed on this chilly morning. 

Roasted Cauliflower and Kabocha soup

1 head of cauliflower
garam masala
val de sol chile powder
1 medium to large kabocha squash peeled and diced
1 onion diced
2 cloves of garlic diced
4 cups of vegetable broth
3 cups of water
black pepper
black sesame seeds or pumpkin seeds (optional)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Cut cauliflower into bite sized pieces and arrange on baking sheet wlined with silpat or parchment paper. Drizzle a few tablespoons of broth on cauliflower.
Sprinkle first garam masala, pimenton, and chile powder over cauliflower. Use as much or as little as you like. Roast in oven undisturbed  for 30 minutes.Remove from oven and set aside to cool.

Heat a large stock pot or dutch oven over medium high heat and add onion and garlic. Put the lid on and let cook for about a minute, stir scraping any bits that are sticking. The lid will help trap some of the moisture being released which will help somewhat with the sticking. If it sticks don't sweat it (sorry for the pun) just scrape it loose. Some color and flavor in the onions is good! Once the onions are translucent add kabocha, broth and water. Bring to full boil and reduce heat to simmer. Partially cover pot with lid and cook until squash is fork tender. Add half of the cauliflower to the pot and puree with immersion blender or traditional blender in batches. Add remaining cauliflower heat through. Adjust spices if necessary and add some black pepper to taste.

As a garnish you can sprinkle some pumpkin seeds, black sesame seeds, or scallions.



roasted cauliflower
kabocha is the dark green striated squash on the right

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Real Deal Vegan Chili with Beans

As a meat eater one of my favorite things to eat in the world was Texas chili con carne. You know the meat and chiles without any healthy beans to get in the way! I developed a pretty kick-ass version over the years. It combined some Mexican cooking methods that I learned from J. Wade Williams (a la Rick Bayless) and testing a few recipes from the web. The flavor breakthrough is all about using dried chiles and toasting them for maximum flavor. No chili powder from a jar!

So when I set out to convert that original recipe into a more life-sustaining dish sans the carne I knew I had to get it right. Flavor  is  of the utmost importance. But how do you get a meatless dish to taste like beef? I tried a few times and failed. I was attempting to replace the texture of chuck steak with chunk seitan. It was only mildly succesful. The real issue was not so much the mouthfeel of the seitan as much as it was the lacking in beefy flavor of the chili itself.

U my mami?

This month I finally had a breakthrough. Cook's Illustrated wrote a piece on vegetarian chili and the tested and discussed the dilemma I have just described to you guys. How to increase that umami flavor in the chili to make it taste more savory or beefy.

I had already been on the hunt for more umami earlier this year developing the recipe. I had experimented with tomato paste and soy sauce. A friend of mine Ian had suggested I check out black garlic. That was a step in the right direction for sure.Armed with my new knowledge of umami I was ready to tackle the recipe once again.

beans in chili?

I had debated adding beans to the chili because real Texas chili has no beans. Or at least I should say chili con carne has no beans. I decided to leave out the seitan add pinto beans and bulgar for the meaty texture (another suggestion from Cook's). I know the purist will mock me for the beans but I don't really care. I love beans! They really are my favorite protein source. Every meal with beans leaves me feeling fuller and more satiated for a longer period of time because they take much longer to digest that other veggies. The bulgar adds a great meaty texture to the chili.

The last thing I will say to preface this recipe is that when it comes to chili I am all about the slow cooker. This process is pretty involved. Although it did get simplified a bit by the time you get everything in the pot you are ready to clean up and call it a night. That's why I love the slow cooker. Once you get the whole pot boiling you just transfer it to the slow cooker and walk away. You come home later or wake up in the morning to the most amazing smell! Its really the only way to do this in my opinion.

Alright. Enough jibber jabber. On with the recipe.

Real Deal Vegan Chili with Beans

5 dried ancho chiles
3 dried guajillo chiles
2 large white onions diced about 2# whole or 4 cups diced
4 garlic cloves minced
1 (28oz) can of diced tomatoes (of fresh if in season) drained and liquid reserved
7 cups of water
2 1/2 cups of dried pinto beans, washed
1/2 oz of dried shiitake mushrooms coarsely chopped
1/2 cup of toasted walnuts
1 tablespoon ground cumin
4 teaspoons mexican oregano
3 tablespoons of tomato paste
4 tablespoons of tamari/soy sauce
2/3 cup of coarse bulgar (medium coarse is ok too)
4 cloves of black garlic (mashed with a fork)
3 teaspoons of white vinegar
salt and pepper to taste
chopped green onions and cilantro for garnish (optional)

1. preheat oven to 300 degrees. Arrange dried chiles on baking sheet and toast in the oven for 10 minutes until fragrant and puffed. Transfer to a plate to cool about 5 minutes. Stem and seed the chiles. If you like your chili hotter leave some seeds or pith. Grind toasted chilies, oregano, and shiitake mushrooms in a spice grinder/mortar and pestal to a fine powder. I have an immersion blender with a small food processor like attachment. That's what I used and it worked great.

2. Process walnuts in a food processor until finely ground. About 30 seconds. Set aside.

3. Process drained tomatoes, jalapeno, regular garlic, and tamari until very finely chopped.

4. Heat dutch oven over high heat until very hot. Add onions and cook with lid on stirring occasionally until onions start to brown and are translucent. About 5-8 minutes. Add cumin and chili powder and cook stirring frequently 1 minute. Add beans, black garlic, tomato puree, walnuts, bulgar, and water. Bring to a full rolling boil.

5. Transfer carefully to slow cooker and cook on high heat for 4 hours or low heat for 8. Stirring once or twice to ensure beans are submerged in liquid. Add vinegar and taste. Season with salt and pepper and serve with cilantro and green onions as garnish if desired. Depending on your chili heat you may or may not need some hot sauce as well.

Hope you enjoy it. Remember that these stews always taste better a day or two after making them.

Enjoy in health!

typed first draft with many, many revisions.

dried Guajillo chiles

grinding the chiles, shiitake, and oregano

where I shop this is usually hanging in the produce department near the regular garlic. It can also be ordered online.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Tex-Mex Layered Enchiladas

When I first started this whole healthy eating "thing" I was told that most people cook 4-6 dishes that they love and rotate through them over and over. My first reaction was "not me man!" "Variety is the spice of life!",  and "my taste buds get bored"...and other such hyperbole. Well truth be told the following recipe is made at our place almost every week. With little variation. My wife is out of town this week so I took the liberty of experimenting with it a bit. But the basic bones of the recipe are so solid and simple that you would really have to work hard at screwing this up.

This is the recipe that I will make for J. Wade Williams if I ever get the chance to cook for him again. Its the kind of tex-mex'ish-californicatin'- sort-of-new-fangled-"mexican"-dish that I think he would love.

One thing before we get started...I make this in an extra deep lasagna pan. It's 3 inches deep. If you use a regular casserole dish you may run out of dish before you finish the layers. I will explain at the end how I would adjust the recipe for a shallower pan.

So let's get started!

Layered Enchiladas

2 packages Ezekiel/food for life brand sprouted corn tortillas (I have tried other brands and its just not the same)
3 cans of fat free refried beans (black or pinto-I use both) You could obviously use your own instead
3 (8oz.) packets of Frontera red chile enchilada sauce
4 cups of frozen yellow corn kernels (cooked)
1 small can of diced mild chiles
6 small red ripe tomatoes diced

this is really simple so bear with me because describing the process makes it look complicated when really it is a piece of cake.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees

1. pour 1 packet of sauce in the bottom of the pan
2. place 6 tortillas in the pan completely covering the surface area
3. spread one can of beans evenly over the tortillas
4. sprinkle a third of the chilies, tomatoes, and corn over the beans
5. add 6 more tortillas
6. pour 1/2 sauce packet over the tortillas
7. spread one can of beans evenly over the tortillas
8. sprinkle half of the remaining chilies, tomatoes, and corn over the beans
9. add 6 more tortillas
10. pour 1/2 sauce packet over the tortillas
11. spread one can of beans evenly over the tortillas
12. sprinkle the remaining chilies, tomatoes, and corn over the beans
13. place 6 tortillas in the pan completely covering the surface area
14. pour 1 packet over the tortillas and spread evenly to coat

Lay a sheet of parchment paper over the pan then a sheet of aluminum foil over that and fold as tightly as you can to the pan. It does not need to be airtight or anything its just that the foil can't come in contact with the sauce (the aluminum will react with the high acidity of the tomatoes and all hell will break loose) and nothing sticks to the parchment so you may have to play with it a bit until you can keep it all together.

Bake for 1 hour. Let rest for 15-20 minutes. Serve over brown rice with sliced olives, scallions, and your favorite hot sauce if you feel inclined.

If you are using the shorter pan just do two cans of beans and omit one layer  of everything else.

So that would look like-

1. pour 1 packet of sauce in the bottom of the pan
2. place 6 tortillas in the pan completely covering the surface area
3. spread one can of beans evenly over the tortillas
4. sprinkle half of the chilies, tomatoes, and corn over the beans
5. add 6 more tortillas
6. pour 1/2 sauce packet over the tortillas
7. spread one can of beans evenly over the tortillas
8. sprinkle the remaining chilies, tomatoes, and corn over the beans
9. add 6 more tortillas
10. pour 1 packet over the tortillas and spread evenly to coat 

Only bake for 45 minutes. You end up with a half a packet of sauce leftover. You could use all of it but too much sauce gets really salty so don't say I didn't warn ya.

If pictures are more your thing peep this-

first layer of sauce

first layer of tortillas
first can of beans (black)
first 1/3 of tomatoes, chiles, and corn

second layer of tortillas

i am missing a photo here of second layer of sauce on tortilla! Sorry!

second can of beans (pinto)

second 1/3 of tomatoes, chiles, and corn

third layer of tortillas

third layer of sauce

third can of beans (black) this is illustrating an easy way to spread the beans evenly. Just portion them on to each tortilla. Its much easier than one big glop in the center.

same layer as above photo just spread out

final layer of tomatoes, chiles, and corn

final layer of tortillas

final sauce

with parchment

with foil

hot out of the oven!
and dinner is served! 
This is literally one of our families favorite recipes so I hope you all will enjoy it as much as we do.

To your health!